Francis Minogue is a former National Treasurer, a former Provincial Commissioner and an active Scouter in his group in Roscrea, County Tipperary. He recently signaled his intention to seek election to the role of International Commissioner.
The Irish Scouter spoke with him this week.
IS: What does the role of International Commissioner entail in Scouting Ireland?
FW: The International Commissioner (IC) is primarily responsible for representing Scouting Ireland at International Events and disseminating information relating to International Scouting matters throughout the Association. The IC is also a member of the NMC and as such has a shared responsibility for the decisions taken by the NMC.
IS: Why are you interested in this role?
FM: My interest in this role stems from my belief that every member of our Association; should have the chance to partake in an International Scouting experience at least once during their journey in scouting.
IS: You are a former National Treasurer. Is the International role just a stepping-stone to bigger and better things?
FM: When I was a young Scout I never believed I would be Group Leader in my own Group let alone National Treasurer. I have been honoured during my time in Scouts to be trusted with many important supporting positions. I enjoy taking on the challenge of various roles and view the opportunity to be International Commissioner as an exciting challenge; one where if elected I’d hope to build on the work done by those who have previously held the role. No one ever knows the future; but I do have an interest into the future in ensuring Scouting Ireland maintains its excellent position on the European and World Scouting stage.
IS: Are you concerned that fewer Scout Groups seem to be participating in Summer Camp, be it at home in Ireland or in an International context?
FM: Ensuring every Scout gets to enjoy an Annual Summer Camp; should be a goal of every Adult Scouter. Do we really understand why Camping numbers appear so low? Is it adult skills; is it the economic pressures; is it the paperwork; is it the lack of suitable campsites. I am worried for sure but in my opinion there is no simple solution; just hard work supporting Groups; using for example our County structures to twin up Groups may be one way to spread the benefits on Annual Camps be them at home or abroad.
IS: Should Scouting Ireland be doing more to grow its membership and the appeal of Scouting generally, in Northern Ireland? The Northern Province has twice the population of the South Eastern Province, yet half the scout membership. (Sources: CSO, UK 2011 Census, 2013 Scouting Ireland Annual Report).
FM: Having served on the Board of the Scout Foundation Northern Ireland; I have experienced first-hand the challenges facing Scouting Ireland in Northern Ireland. The unique and special arrangement with The Scout Association UK has its pro’s and con’s. I believe the arrangement is up for negotiation currently; the NMC need to use this opportunity to try and secure a freer hand for Scouting Ireland in Northern Ireland. Given the demographics it is a reasonable target for there to be as many Scouting Ireland members in Northern Ireland as in the South East Province.
IS: Scouting Ireland was successful in securing the Rover Scout Moot in 2020. It will be the first World event to take place in Ireland. Are we up to the job?
FM: Following the World Scout Conference in Brazil in 2011; together with the then International Commissioner I recommended that Scouting Ireland think big and suggested a bid for either the World Scout Conference or the Rover Scout Moot; believing we had the support on the World Stage for such a bid. I would not have done so if I did not believe we had the capability to deliver it. It for sure will be a challenge for Scouting Ireland but if everyone pulls together as one Team we can do it.
IS: Looking at some of the crises on the borders of the EU, in particular on the Southern shores of the Mediterranean, does Scouting in general and Scouting Ireland in particular, have a role to play in supporting humanitarian efforts?
FM: Of course Scouting Ireland can play a role but we need to ensure we do this in a coordinated fashion supporting the agencies whom are better positioned to lead these efforts. Scouting Ireland can and should develop and further enhance partnerships with NGO’s, business and other Scout Associations towards the achievement of those aims.
IS: Ireland has become a lot more culturally diverse over the past two decades, yet Scouting remains very white and very Christian. Does the association need to do more to help integrate newer citizens and residents?
FM: You can always do more, but National policies will achieve little unless supported fully by resources at Group level. Simple things like translations of key documents and forms would be a help. Changing perceptions locally and nationally is also key; because many of us work in Scout Groups open to all but sometimes the general public don’t believe us.
IS: Do you envisage Ireland ever hosting a World Scout Jamboree?
FM: Dreaming is good and it is possible; however I believe we need to deliver a successful Rover Scout Moot first and in the process significantly enhance our internal capabilities and external relationships with business and governmental agencies. I would also caution against a WSJ project which put at danger the bread and butter of day to day Scout Group life.
IS: Is it time for Scouting Ireland to start hosting International Jamborees of its own again? Have we lost the confidence to do this? Do we provide adequate support to those willing to take on the responsibility to drive projects like this?
FM: Yes 100% we need to get back on this horse! I was involved in supporting the Stradbally team as National Treasurer and whilst a number of factors conspired against the project, for me the worrying one is the apparent lack of depth in skills in the Scout and Venture Sections. We need to work together to build up these basic scouting skills in our membership. I hope the latest review of our adult training scheme goes someway to address this.
IS: Membership displeasure with the NMC and its leadership has been evident at the past two National Councils, resulting in some fairly significant outcomes. What changes do you think are needed in Scouting Ireland, to restore confidence in National Office?
FM: The question presupposes displeasure; I have a slightly different view have been both inside and outside the NMC tent. I believe we have an extremely vibrant democracy in Scouting Ireland and that our biggest failure is simply not to have developed a shared vision and strategy for our Association. The latest attempts failed in my opinion due to communication; the NMC being perceived to be pushing it through and the local level being perceived not to engage. I do hope following September’s National Council; our new Chief Scout will support and inspire the Association to together address this problem.
IS: Is there sufficient transparency around decision-making at National level in Scouting Ireland?
FM: Generally yes; however some of the decisions of the past have been questionable. I do believe as a relatively young association we are still finding our feet and we don’t have robust enough processes in place to deal with everything an Association such as ours needs to have.
I also firmly believe that those at National level need to be grounded in Scout Group life. All decisions made at National level should be made with a clear view of the impact it will have at Group-level.
IS: Should the association be meeting best practice in this area by adopting similar codes and structures to other charities and volunteer-led entities?
FM: Scouting Ireland should always aim to operate to best practice; but we need to be leaders in developing best practice not simply blindly following others; just because another organisation sells themselves better than Scouting Ireland doesn’t mean their policy is best practice.
IS: As a former National Treasurer, do you have a view on the deficit that Scouting Ireland is currently running?
FM: Scouting Ireland needs to live within its means; day-to-day income should match day-to-day expenditure. That said I am not keen on Scout Groups contributing more to National Level. Life at local level is tough enough to make ends meet without extra monies being levied from National Level. Nationally we need to do more to increase other funding streams. I am however not afraid of investing to develop, but any such investment should be supported by carefully thought out business plans with adequate contingencies in place.
IS: As a business leader, do you have a view on Scouting Ireland having a positive process of engagement with the corporate sector?
FM: Scouting Ireland’s relationship here is at best ad hoc – we have some excellent relationships at local levels and bits and pieces nationally; however much more can be done. Scouting needs to understand the needs of business in our engagement with it. Simply going with a begging bowl is not a long term sustainable strategy; selling Scouting Ireland as a vibrant, happening place where the citizens of the future are growing and developing is a market place business will engage with.
IS: Would you hire a scout or scouter ahead of another candidate for a job, all things being equal?
FM: Yes. In my current role I am leading the Graduate Programme in our business and have hired some 10 university graduates in the last 12 months and placed them in our businesses across Europe. If I see scouting on a CV I always give it a second look. However I don’t believe enough of the other business leaders do the same; this is a challenge for Scouting Ireland. I am lucky to work in a business, which in its senior team has 4 people with scouting background in the UK and Ireland and others in Europe with scouting memories from their childhood; this makes talking about the benefits of scouting easier at the management table.
IS: When did you last work in a programme section?
FM: Throughout my time in Scouting; regardless of the roles I have undertaken; I have remained active at Group Level as a Scout & Venture leader. Today I am Scout Section Leader & Group Leader in the 6th Tipperary Roscrea
IS: When were you last on a scout camp?
FM: This year 62 members of our Scouts, Ventures, Rovers and Scouter team went on Annual Camp to Jersey in the Channel Islands.
IS: Are you a member of a fellowship patrol? If yes, which one?
IS: What do you do in your spare time, when not working or Scouting?
FM: Family life is important to me and although single; I spend as much time as possible supporting my recently widowed mam. I am also a big sports fan; so watching, playing and attending games fills up the little time left after family, work and scouts!!
Francis Minogue was in discussion with Garrett Flynn. This is the first in a series of interviews related to forthcoming elections in Scouting Ireland for the roles of Chief Scout and International Commissioner. Invitations for interviews are being extended to all declared candidates for both roles.